David Brainerd lived a short life, but an impactful one. Born in 1718 into one of Connecticut's early-established families -- his father Hezekiah was a state legislator -- he attended Yale, left for a time because of illness (presumably an early attack of the tuberculosis that would eventually take his life), returned, but was expelled for alleged infractions of a rule that prevented criticism of the Rector or staff. His expulsion, and a denial of reinstatement, led to the resignation of a significant part of the Yale faculty, and subsequently, to the establishment of The College of New Jersey -- later, Princeton University -- which featured many of the former Yale teachers.
Though his expulsion from Yale meant exclusion from conventional ministry, Brainerd became a successful missionary to Native Americans after being licensed to preach by an evangelical group. This work, which he carried out from 1742 to 1746 in eastern New York, eastern Pennsylvania, and northern New Jersey, was later documented by Rev. Jonathan Edwards in an influential biography of Brainerd based on the missionary's diaries.
Brainerd's efforts, as reported by Edwards, proved inspirational to numerous others involved in ministry. His work was brought to an end by the worsening effects of his tuberculosis; he died in 1747, at the home of Jonathan Edwards in Northampton, Massachusetts. In his final illness he had been closely tended by Edwards' young daughter Jerusha; it is a sad irony that in nursing him, she contracted from Brainerd the disease that took his life, and within a few months it took hers also. The two are buried next to one another in Northampton.
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